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Syria: After five years of turmoil, five key needs

As the conflict in Syria enters into its sixth year, the displacement crisis that it has created continues to grow. The crisis affects people within Syria, the refugees who've left the country and nations around the globe that Syrians have fled to. According to the United Nations, 13.5 million Syrians are navigating a daily turmoil that requires aid; nearly 5 million are refugees in other countries, while 6.6 million are displaced within Syria.

Fidelity Charitable builds on its 2015 Syrian donor guidance here with an expanded look at the greatest needs created by the crisis and the organizations that are working to meet them.

Below are highlights from Fidelity Charitable's March 31 webinar, Syrian Refugee Crisis: Voices from the Field, that featured representatives from humanitarian relief and advocacy organizations discussing ongoing efforts to address the crisis. The article also includes updates from other humanitarian groups that are addressing these issues.

A view of the challenges, and how organizations are helping

Food and WASH for families in conflict

Because of the conflict, almost 9 million Syrians are unable to meet their daily dietary needs, while another 70 percent do not have regular access to safe drinking water. Access to food and WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) is frequently used as a weapon against civilians in Syria, while displacement has also made the availability of food, water, sanitation and hygiene precarious to Syrians who have left home. CARE and other relief organizations are bringing supplies to both Syria's hard-to-reach areas and to its bordering countries' refugee host populations, where resources are stretched thin. Recently, CARE also began support to refugees in Europe. Food, cash and voucher assistance from CARE, as well as its WASH teams on the ground, have reached more than 1.1 million Syrians at home and elsewhere.

But there is more to be done. "With the Syrian war now in its sixth year, the response needs more funding, as the humanitarian needs continue to grow. The Syrian people also need more solutions that help them deal with the long-term impacts of this crisis," said Richard Hamilton, CARE Syria response director.

Health care during crisis

Violence in Syria and the migration crisis have led to the deaths of more than 250,000 people; even more are injured or suffering from mental health conditions. Syrians increasingly have nowhere to turn for medical needs; the UN reports more than 600 health-care workers have been killed and many more have fled since the conflict began. Although much of Syria is not reachable due to areas besieged with violence, Doctors Without Borders operates clinics inside Syria and in neighboring countries to treat injuries from violence and needs that arise from migration. The clinics also provide ongoing treatment for transmittable diseases, reproductive health, and mental and child health.

Doctors Without Borders humanitarian representative Andres Romero said the organization works to fill the gaps in trauma care at a moment's notice. "Last year, when many refugees were dying in the Mediterranean Sea, we set up three boats to rescue more than 20,000 people," Romero said. "And this was an unexpected situation. Financial support allows our people on the ground to adapt, to be flexible, to respond to needs."

Protection of civilians, with a focus on women and girls

The internally displaced Syrians and refugees abroad are in constant danger, due to the indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Syria and subsequent displacement. Amid this chaos, the specific challenges and needs of refugee women and girls are often overlooked. Women and girls often leave Syria because of gender-based violence, such as rape, abuse, and trafficking, but then experience it en route to and within the countries to which they have fled. Services such as gender-neutral toilets and washing facilities at refugee transit sites often are unsafe for women, particularly after dark, causing many to refrain from eating and drinking.

To address this issue, organizations such as the Women's Refugee Commission provide guidance for nations bordering Syria, refugee transit sites, and European countries on the specific protection needs of women. "Even when countries or aid organizations provide services like toilets or rest areas for refugees, women and girls will not use these services unless they feel safe," said Marcy Hersh, senior advocacy officer for Women's Refugee Commission. The Women's Refugee Commission counsels transit centers to establish safe spaces for women, and undertakes broader advocacy services on behalf of refugee women and girls.

Education for Syria's lost generation

About 7.5 million Syrian children have known nothing but war in their lifetime; many have not set foot in a classroom in five years. Within Syria, one in four school buildings has been attacked, prompting families in Syria to keep their children home. Refugees outside of Syria are struggling to meet their most basic needs, and education is no longer an option for most children. Without help, a generation of Syrian youth will lack the skills to fulfill their potential; the UN estimates a 17.6 percent drop in Syria’s GDP due to the education crisis.

Save the Children is supporting the millions of children who need education by rebuilding schools in Syria, providing supplies and creating additional targeted resources and child-friendly spaces. Save the Children is also working in refugee areas beyond Syria by providing safe places for children to play and learn, educational materials, computers and teacher training, as well as psychosocial support. And the organization's programs help "Syrian children get the education they need so they can be the next generation who are going to help their country recover," said Michael Klosson, Save the Children's vice president for policy and humanitarian response.

Advocacy work, now and in the future

The Syrian crisis offers the opportunity to advocate for systemic changes that could lessen or prevent future humanitarian crises that result from governmental and geopolitical unrest, terrorism and other conflicts. Organizations such as Refugees International already are pushing for greater cooperation in Syria, asking that Syrian aid organizations be supported and included in the design and implementation of humanitarian action. Refugees International advocates for better coordination of local aid groups with governments such as the United States and large international nongovernmental organizations that provide funds and resources.

"Syrian refugees need an organization that is fully independent from government or UN funding to speak forcefully and candidly on their behalf so that they receive the assistance they need," said Michel Gabaudan, president of Refugees International. "Refugees International has worked to fulfill this role for five years and we will continue this fight into the future as long as their protection and dignity are at risk."

Immediate and Direct Support: Services to Refugees

Below is a list of charities providing direct services to the refugees who have fled Syria or are displaced within Syria. This list includes organizations highlighted in our March 31 webinar, as well as additional organizations identified by Fidelity Charitable.

Organization Address and tax ID Number
CAREGift Center
P.O. Box 7039
Merrifield, VA 22116–9753

TIN: 13-1685039
Doctors Without Borders333 7th Ave., 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10001-5004

TIN: 13-3433452
International Rescue Committee122 E 42nd St, 12th Fl
New York, NY 10168

TIN: 13-5660870
Mercy Corps45 S.W. Ankeny St
Portland, OR 97204

TIN: 91-1148123
Oxfam America226 Causeway St, 5th Fl
Boston, MA 02114

TIN: 23-7069110
Save the Children501 Kings Hwy E, Ste 400
Fairfield, CT 06825

TIN: 06-0726487
United States Association for UNHCR1775 K St NW, Ste 580
Washington, DC 20006

TIN: 52-1662800

Ongoing and Future Support: Advocacy, Resettlement and Policy Work

There are also charities that are working to make systemic changes to lessen or prevent future humanitarian crises that result from governmental and geopolitical unrest, terrorism, and other conflicts.

Fidelity Charitable has confirmed that the following organizations have been advocating on behalf of Syrian refugees and are working toward sustainable models to address escalating crises in the future. The work that these organizations undertake is often conducted over many years.

Organization Address and tax ID Number
Immigrant Legal Resource Center1663 Mission St Ste 602
San Francisco, California 94103 - 2473

TIN: 94-2939540
International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center40 Rector Street, 9th Fl,
New York, NY 10006

TIN: 13-3442022
Oxfam America226 Causeway St, 5th Fl,
Boston, MA 02114

TIN: 23-7069110
Refugees International2001 S Street NW, Ste 700
Washington, DC 20009

TIN: 52-1224516
U.S. Committee for Refugees2231 Crystal Dr, Ste 350
Arlington, VA 22202

TIN: 13-1878704
Women's Refugee Commission122 E 42nd St, 11th Fl
New York, NY 10168

TIN: 46-3668128
Please note that this does not represent a full list of organizations raising money for the humanitarian relief efforts needed as a result of the Syrian unrest. Fidelity Charitable does not endorse these organizations, and provides this list for reference purposes only. All grant recommendations are subject to review and approval by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees. In addition, at this time, Fidelity Charitable will only make grants that are recommended for use in Syria if the proposed grantee has agreed to comply with the Syrian Sanctions Regulations issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States Treasury.

Additional Resources

Watch our webinar, Voices from the Field

Read our September 2015 giving guidance

Center for Disaster Philanthropy: Global Refugee Crisis

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Log in to your Giving Account

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